VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia – City leaders on Friday acknowledged recent problems within Virginia Beach and said it was time to tackle them head-on.
Mayor Bobby said, “We have to have these tough conversations.”
Difficult conversations that some say go back at least two years.
City Councilor Michael Berlucchi said: “Something in the water was a climax, May 31 was a low point, COVID was a challenge, discussions renewed and, rightly so, on race relations and how whom we connect with and relate to one another as neighbors and as members of the same community. “
It’s a community still recovering from a mass shooting, allegations of racism between neighbors at Jessamine Court and a shootout involving an officer that killed Donovan Lynch, Pharrell’s cousin. That same night, a stray bullet also killed DeShayla Harris by the ocean.
These events in part prompted Pharrell to cancel Something In The Water for 2022. In a letter to City Manager Patrick Duhaney, the music icon said there was “toxic energy” in the city.
News 3 met with Mayor Bobby Dyer for his perspective. He said more behind the scenes change is being done than people realize.
He said: “That’s why we’re so motivated to meet Pharrell Williams and say, ‘Look, this is your city. It’s still your city and we are working hard to overcome a lot of perceptions and, quite frankly, issues that any city has. ‘”
Dyer said he didn’t believe the city was toxic and said they had created the “Mayor’s IDEA Commission”. IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility.
“Since March, we’ve had two focus group meetings where we’ve brought together a wide variety of people by race and background,” he said. “We asked a diverse group of people, ‘What do you think is wrong with the city? What do you think caused them? Most importantly, what do you think we can do to fix them?
Mental health, municipal services and housing were at the top of the list of issues to be corrected. In the mayor’s report, the next steps are:
- Finalize the working groups
- Survey the committee on interest in being part of a working group
- Openly communicate working groups and send out a call or community involvement
- A Virginia plan
“I think we have to be honest about our history and we have to be honest about our feelings,” Berlucchi said. “We have a certain division, we have many challenges ahead of us, but we have taken on challenges with excellence.”
Earlier this week, city council created a 5/31 Commemorative committee for the victims of the May 31 tragedy.
They are now accepting requests from anyone who wishes to be a part of this process to bring a permanent memorial to Virginia Beach. Click here for more details.